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Scotland is a magical country and nowhere is that more evident than the Isle of Skye. With rugged mountains and cascading waterfalls, this is a place well suited for legends.
The island is full of stories, but most visitors are here to find one specific creature. This is the ultimate guide to finding the fairies of Skye. Best of all, most locations are entirely free like the unique Isle of Skye Fairy Glen.
The Legend of Enchanted Sligachan Bridge
The Sligachan Bridge sits at an important crossroads at the heart of Scotland. While the old arched bridge is beautiful, the real magic is in the water that flows beneath. The River Sligachan has been enchanted by the Skye fairies.
The story of the mystical river surrounds Scotland’s greatest warrior, a legendary female fighter by the name of Scáthach. She was an expert in all forms of warfare and people came from far and wide to train with her at Dunscaith Castle.
Her fame spread across the water to Ireland where the Irish demi-god Cú Chulainn wasn’t happy. He sailed to Dunscaith and challenged Scáthach to prove once and for all who was strongest. They battled fiercely for days and Scáthach’s daughter Uathach began to worry that her mother would be killed.
She came to the Sligachan River where the bridge now stands and pled with the fairies to help her mother as the crashing sound of battle raged over the island.
Eventually, the fairies were moved by the daughter’s love and sorrow. The fairy queen told Uathach to wash her face in the river. She would then be blessed with the knowledge she needed.
Uathach did as she was instructed and immediately knew what to do. Using the richest ingredients, she created the greatest banquet the island had ever seen. Before long, the smell spread to the warriors. Their stomachs began to rumble so agreeing to a temporary truce, they entered the great hall to sit down and eat.
Suddenly they both realized they had broken bread together. Cú Chulainn was now a guest in Scáthach’s home, and he couldn’t fight her out of respect and tradition. They would have to accept the battle was a draw.
Uathach left a bit of magic behind in the water at Sligachan but it isn’t wisdom that you gain here. You must get on your hands and knees by the bridge and submerge your face completely in the water for 7 seconds. If you leave your face to dry naturally then the fairies will bless you with eternal beauty.
There is good parking both before and after the bridge itself. The easiest way to climb down to wash your face is across the bridge from the hotel and then down the left-hand side.
The Dramatic Fairy Pools
Not every location on Skye has an intricate story but that hasn’t stopped one of the most popular attractions, the Fairy Pools of Glenbrittle.
The enchanting, crystal clear water with a backdrop of misty mountains puts the Fairy Pools at the top of many Skye bucket lists. The water takes on a naturally blueish-green hue which has given this section of the river its magical name.
The water in the series of waterfalls and pools might be a little chilly at times but there are few spots in Scotland as inviting for wild swimmers. This is truly a unique experience for those brave enough to swim with the Skye fairies. For everybody else, you’re rewarded with unforgettable scenery.
The drive to the Fairy Pools is around 6 miles down a single-track road. The good news is that a new car park complete with restrooms has just been opened for those who make the journey.
It’s around a 2.5km walk along a well-made path to get to the first pool. Bring sturdy shoes as well as your swimming costume.
Ancient Dunvegan Castle & The Fairy Bridge
Dunvegan Castle on the northwest coast of Skye is the ancestral home of the Chief of Clan Macleod. It also happens to be the location of one of the most popular fairy stories from the island.
One of the early chiefs of the clan fell in love with a princess of the Skye fairies but her father would not let the two marry. After much pleading, he agreed to let the couple be together for a year and a day. But when the time was up, he would come to the Fairy Bridge and take his daughter home again.
The year was spent blissfully. And by the time the fairy princess was due to return home, she had given birth to a baby boy. Distraught at having to leave her son, she made Macleod promise never to let him cry otherwise the noise would break her heart.
Macleod mourned the loss of his love, so the clansmen decided to throw a party to cheer their chief up. The baby was left with his nurse. However, the noise of music and laughter was too much for her to ignore. She left her post to join in the celebration but just then, the child awoke and started to cry.
The fairy princess heard her son and the noise was so unbearable, she disobeyed her father and returned to Dunvegan Castle. There she comforted her child and swaddled it in her silken scarf.
When the nurse returned and found the boy wrapped up, she couldn’t explain it. Macleod knew the boy had been visited by his mother. He turned the silk scarf into a flag that’s still on display today.
When the boy was older, he somehow remembered what his mother whispered to him when she visited that night. If Clan Macleod was ever in need, all they needed to do was wave the flag and the Skye fairies would come to their rescue.
It has kept the clan safe for hundreds of years through battles and famines. Although it’s said to only have one magical wave left in it.
Dunvegan castle with the flag on display is open between May and October from 10 am to 5:30 pm and costs £14 for adults. The fairy bridge can still be seen along the road from the castle entrance. It’s entirely free with a small parking spot next to it.
The Unique Isle of Skye Fairy Glen
The last location is a curious little place called the Isle of Skye Fairy Glen in the north of Skye on the Trotternish Peninsula. This area of the island is famous for the landslips that have formed its dramatic scenery. The Fairy Glen itself looks like a scale model of one of the many picturesque glens that fill the Scottish landscape.
There are strange mounds, a towering pillar nicknamed Castle Ewen and worn spirals that have been formed by thousands of visiting feet. It might not have its own traditional folk story but if you’re looking for the Skye fairies then this seems like the perfect place to do it.
The glen can get very busy in the middle of the day. If you want to experience the Fairy Glen in solitude then try and get here first thing or late in the day. As well as having a better chance fairy hunting, you’re also going to get spectacular light during sunrise or sunset.
The Isle of Skye Fairy Glen is free to visit and a new paid car park has been built to make visiting easier. Wear sturdy shoes and don’t forget to climb to the top of Castle Ewen to get the best views.
Book This Trip
Start planning your adventure to see the magic of the Isle of Skye. Find more information on how to get around, hotel and VRBO options, local shops and more on TripAdvisor and Travelocity. Next, you can find ground transportation around Scotland and flight deals through Omio.
Author’s Bio: Graeme is the writer and storyteller behind Scotland’s Stories. In love with the history and folklore of Scotland, his mission is to share these stories in an engaging way to help people appreciate their travel more.